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Nov 8, 2012

Talkin' about a revolution the GOP won't get

It wasn't just Barack Obama's victory that had liberals salivating yesterday. Democrats have built a platform to win more of the electorate, says Crikey's man in America.


Out on the street this morning, back to a coffee shop near Logan Circle I went in ’08. Mainly, that time and this, because it’s close to a liquor store which is shaped like a giant barrel. Logan’s a mixed area, students, leftish types, a reasonable racial mix, and last time it was like a carnival, everyone grinning at each other.

There wasn’t the same vibe this time, which is a little sad, but is also one reason why the Right got their forecasts so wrong, grooving off the enthusiasm of old white people shakin’ their booty at Mitt Romney rallies, to one of the six songs he was legally allowed to play. People didn’t enthuse and emote for Obama this time around. All they did was turn out, and that was all they needed to do. More than a million of them also got out the vote, but many more simply made sure they voted, not always the easiest thing to do in the US.

For them, this was the consolidation moment, the day when it was all tamped down, when the white Right was shown they couldn’t rely on it being just a flash in the pan of the hopey-changey thing. Didn’t matter really. I did what I always do on such moments, in hotel rooms somewhere. (Luck held; changing hotels, I got upgraded to a suite on my Expedia points, three blocks from DC metro central. My room sprawls beyond me, rooms and sofas and 300 channels of cable. Thanks Barack!)

That in itself is a type of victory. It is now for the white Right to shriek and scream and to batter their fists against the hull of Air Force One and demand they be heard. Last night, as the dimensions of the victory became clear, they did not disappoint, with Donald Trump tweeting for revolution and Karl Rove on Fox News refusing to accept the result and chiding his own co-presenters for accepting Ohio as a win for Obama. There will be time for schadenfreude later; now is the time to consider the meaning of this moment, politically, socially and historically.

It would be absurd to say this victory is of greater importance than 2008, because with ’08 there would be ’12. But that is the paradox of the dialectic, of the second knock before waking, of the postman always ringing twice. The ’12 victory gives the ’08 win new meaning in retrospect, a result that was not a fluke, a revolt against George W. Bush. It confirms it as a thing in itself, and the ’12 victory thereby becomes not a last gasp Hail Mary pass but the consolidation of an Order. Whatever happens now, this is the Obama era, a time which situates what came before and after.

How conflicted Bill Clinton must feel now. He’s a man with a heart bypass, and he half worked himself to death for Obama, doing the things Obama couldn’t — that combination of explanation and populism, the way of talking to the common voter, not down to them, that, in the modern era, only he and Paul Keating have mastered. But the Obama era shows up the Clinton double-header as nothing more than a throat clearing. He has been shown up as what he was — an accommodating president, who got the numbers right, and got the system functioning, but whose regime is utterly without major structural change. He is Grover Cleveland to Obama’s Wilson, or Wilson to Obama’s FDR.

“No, there will be the Reagan era, and the Obama era, and those are the poles of this half-century circus, and it is something that the Right are just beginning to realise, and that is pissing them off.”

You can, of course, reel off the major achievements of the split Cleveland presidency. Dubya? Dubya is, god, I dunno, McKinley or something, someone only known because of the manner of his demise. His dad? Bizzarely, HW, 1988-92, exactly matches Benjamin Harrison 1888-92, a man who has almost disappeared to history.

No, there will be the Reagan era, and the Obama era, and those are the poles of this half-century circus, and it is something that the Right are just beginning to realise, and that is pissing them off.

But it is not merely Obama’s second victory — and it was a narrow victory in terms of overall vote, no more than 1% or 2% — that seals the deal. It was the victories in the Senate. Not merely the obvious ones — Claire McAskill against the r-pe guy in Missouri; person X, anyone, against the other r-pe guy in Indiana. There’s also Heidi Heidkamp taking out a narrow victory in North Dakota against, yes, the third r-pe guy. There’s Tim Kaine in Virginia against George Allen, there’s Angus King, a left independent taking a moderate Republican seat in Maine. In Connecticut, Chris Murphy saw off a money challenge from fake-wrestling supremo Linda McMahon. In Florida Ben Nelson saw off Connie Mack. And in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren took the state back from Tea Party upstart Scott Brown, the former male centrefold with the p-rn name. The result leaves the Democrats with 55 reliable votes, up from 53, and puts the Senate out of reach of the GOP for four years at the least, and 8-12 years realistically. It’s a disaster for them.

The third part of this tripod are the special measures of the election. The dope vote won in Colorado and Washington and lost in Oregon, the same-s-x vote in Maryland and Maine. In California, a bunch of measures, including a reduction of the “three-strikes” rule which was invented here, is winning. There’s dozens of others, which I will analyse when I’m less drunk, and not lying on the floor watching Fox News go insane, but the results are in. This was something more than a good night.

This was the revolution, the breach, the moment. This was the point at which the whole country wheeled and turned, when the so-called minorities became the majority, when the country started to take its founding documents at their word — that this is a place where all men (sic) are created equal. They plugged this radical impulse into the political structures, and look what came out. The routing of the old class, packing up their resentment like a cheap concertina, and skulking home.

We missed this story. Everyone missed this story. This was the liberal revolution and where it was won, and we were all too defensive — and some on the Left were and are too purist and consumed in contumely to acknowledge it — to see what was happening. Now we all have to catch up.

Happily, the Right won’t. They’ll never get it, and that shit will play itself out for months and years. They don’t yet realise, the poor fools, that last night they lost not only 2012, but 2016 and maybe 2020. They took back one state. One!

The streets are calm, the mood is not carnivalesque because this is the new normal. Tomorrow there will be time to go over the traces, but for now I am going to boot up by 30 renditions of Don’t Stop Believin’, and repeat history to the defeated but may say alas but cannot help nor pardon, and put on a suit, and stroll out for a taxi, and join my whip-smart intern and others at JFK’s favourite bar, the Monocle, and watch, above the Capitol building, the stars wheel and change.


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27 thoughts on “Talkin’ about a revolution the GOP won’t get

  1. The Pav

    Clinton achieved nothing?

    He left a workd in relative peace and a budget surplus with an economy going well.

    Perhaps not spectacular but significant when compared to the mess Obama inherited

  2. Mr Tank

    But do remember The Pav that Clinton repealed Glass Steagal and stuffed up on Rwanda. All President’s end up with blood on their hands.

  3. pritu

    Feels like the last page of The Inferno! Bravo!

  4. paddy

    On target as usual Guy.
    It is indeed the second term that will (hopefully) cement Obama’s legacy.
    It would be such a nice change, to see the USA as a progressive political force again.
    Hope springs eternal.

  5. mikeb

    Watching BO and Clinton makes you realise how poor our politicians are in comparison. WJC for all his faults tried to take the consiliatory line when probably he could have been more decisive. If he had taken care of OSL when he had the chance (& many chances there were), there might not have been a 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq war. But then that’s only speculation. Good luck BO, and God help the GOP to get over the disappointment & try to work with the Demos to get the country up and about again. No more budget blackmails please.

  6. mikeb

    I meant OBL (not OSL).

  7. michael r james

    “We missed this story. Everyone missed this story”

    Err, no. Actually not even totally sure what you mean, but w.r.t. the GOP running two whitebread white northerner guys and insulting the minorities directly and Hispanics indirectly several times, the demographic effect has been obvious for ages.
    You remember it is precisely what I said after the Tampa conference selected Ryan, and you dumped on me.

    Post-election any Republican strategist not choking on their own tongue was talking about this issue. (The problem is that by definition these are not the guys running the show.) Logically this leads to Jeb Bush (fluent in Spanish; Latino wife) or Marco Rubio for ’16 but a lot of the morons are still talking about Ryan!

    Still, it is a bit disappointing that Arizona and Texas remain quite red with little hint of purple. I think the Dems need to seriously work on that because they could lock up the presidency forever.

    (another nitpick: it was two seats they got back, Indiana & NC.)

  8. michael r james

    About the Colorado dope measure, on Lateline last night pol-strategist Michael Duffy was funny when he said that most people visiting Denver Colorado (the mile high state!) assumed it had been legal for decades!

  9. Two Bird Stone

    Gay marriage and marijuana laws are all well and good, but how come nobody is talking about the big story?! Puerto Rico just voted to become the 51st United State, and Obama has pledged to help them get it. Flag makers are going to make a fortune!

  10. Christopher Nagle

    I wouldn’t get too excited about this. The GOP screwed itself through its own fractious factionalism and Romney’s own goal when he dismissed nearly half the population of the country as parasites. And remember that ghastly moment of embarrassment when Clint Eastwood managed to make the whole GOP hoopla brigade look like idiots. And even then, Obama almost lost it, somehow or other, during the first debate.

    The nature of American politics is dividing just like Romney said, not between haves and have nots, but wealth builders and the parasites that hang off them. The problem is, both propositions are right and both of them are wrong in ways that are far too intractable and intertwined to be compromised about. They point to the politics of long term decline, decadance and lost opportunity.

    The brutal fact is, America is unlikely to recover what it has lost by way of a common vision and the kinds of compromise one gets when success beckons. Obama can’t do an FDR. The available wealth for a New Deal has been blown.

    In our scenario for the next decade is the do or die shit fight over who is going to be busted and made to pay for the hideous fiasco that was the GFC; a fiasco that happened because American capital found it easier to financially speculate than try and compete with the Asian Tigers; reflective of a society that had grown fat, tired and sloppy in its habits, across the board.

    And while there is hell to pay for the above, no one, least of all Barrack Obama, has a clue how they are going to get out of Go-to-gaol-do-not-collect-trillions-of-dollars. No one.

  11. Rachel Stephen-Smith

    Okay, seriously Guy … it’s Senator BILL Nelson in Florida. The retirement of former Nebraskan Democratic Senator BEN Nelson actually delivered the Republicans a pick-up in the Senate, with Deb Fischer (R) defeating the former governor, Bob Kerrey (D) – which you could say was kind of important. And as for Scott Brown as a Tea Partier … that was always a marriage of convenience, and one that was wearing thin on both sides. Brown’s own election website declares that he is pro-choice and voted in favour of a Democratic jobs bill. To the extent it existed, Tea Party support for Brown was purely anyone-but-Warren.

  12. michael r james

    Two Bird Stone 3:21 pm

    You’re right, I haven’t seen it anywhere.

    But the thing is, other than flag makers, it is not such a big change. Puerto Ricans have always rejected becoming a state because the advantages to them are not so great. They are already citizens (who cannot vote in Federal elections) so the argument is that they lose some independence. (I think it might have been GHW Bush who made them citizens and tried but failed to get them statehood.)

    But it is now interesting that PR will become a state while Washington DC is not!

  13. michael r james

    OK just to correct myself (too lazy to read Wiki): here is an informative post from a WashPo commenter:

    [PR did not become a Commonwealth in 1917, that’s the year that it’s residents became US citizens, which gave them the right to vote in all elections if they move to any of the states. It became a commonwealth in 1947 which gave it the right to its own elected governor.
    As a US possession it can be admitted to the Union whenever Congress agrees to do so. Puerto Ricans serve in the US military, are covered by social security, and pay taxes, although most revenue is retained for use by the PR government. As other commenters noted, PR’s legal and constitutional status is different from DC. As has also been noted, they each have a heavy minority population which is strongly Democratic, so the Repubs will never agree to statehood.]

  14. rhwombat

    Bloody Hell, Greg – I wish I could drunk-blog a faction as well as you.

  15. rhwombat

    …err…fraction…though faction sort of works too.

  16. Mr Tank

    Guy, now get thee to Russia! If you need a Radiation testing kit. I know a guy who bought one after 9/11!

  17. AR

    The conniptions of the rightards is a joy to behold, even on their, usually, toxic sites there are comments from the liberals, some rational but mostly overjoyed WAHOO,Nyaaa!!
    Have a look at American thinker (an oxymoron if ever there were one) for some real laughs, it seems to have been inundated by the left, unable to resist jabbing with sharp sticks.

  18. Guy Rundle

    rachel, um, the dems won n.dakota, with heidi heitkamp…

  19. Niall Clugston

    Hardly a revolution. Since WW2, the parties (as opposed to individuals) have held the White House for 2 terms alternatively, with the exception of Carter who had 1 and Reagan-Bush who had 3. And before WW2 they were in for even longer.

    A 50-48% split is hardly decisive or permanent.

  20. Rachel Stephen-Smith

    Guy, um, I didn’t mention North Dakota.

  21. tinydog

    Ah, the joys of a twenty-something intern.

  22. Guy Rundle

    michael james, im not talking about the demographic change, but about the political one – the combined liberal shift of Obama’s re-election, the senate and crucially the special measures. that story wasnt got

  23. Rachel Stephen-Smith

    tinydog – I can only wish my 20s weren’t so long gone. Feel free to google. 🙂

  24. Dogs breakfast

    Ok, there’s just a little bit of schadenfreude going on here. It’s not so much based on a left wing leaning as it is on the sense of comeuppance for the mighty, watching the great and good fall, the extent of the pride that came before the fall.

    I have no sense of USA. It makes Russia look easy to read, a conundrum inside a riddle wrapped in mystery etc etc, BUT.

    Demographic change almost certainly swings against the GOP as the wealthy white boomers reduce in number and are replaced by all manner of immigrants, but wealth seems often to turn people in USA, avowed Dems becoming more free enterprise enthusiasts as they make their millions outsourcing jobs to China.

    So calling it a revolution is much further than I would go, but underlying it all is a dramatic and generic sense of fundamental change. What can you say about a party (GOP) which I read today seeks pledges from the representatives to never vote for a tax increase, ever. Consider the incredibly narrow ideological constraints that bind the GOP, the small government, no-tax-is-a-good-tax, get government out of the way solution to every problem. A party that ideologically is bound to assume that the market is always the best mechanism for solving problems, not having realised that the last 20 (or 50 or 100 years) have shown explicit and constant examples of market failure, systemic market failure at that.

    Change must come, the least likely event is business as usual. The numbers may coalesce around the 50-48% mark as remarked by Mr Clugston, but the numbers aren’t the issue, it’s about the debate, it’s about where the ‘centre’ is.

    I doubt anyone who suggests that the ‘centre’ hasn’t been moved by this election, I don’t believe for a second that the next decade will look anything like business-as-usual in almost any field of human endeavour, but most particularly in politics and economics.

    And BTW Crikey, can you get your spell-checker to use an English dictionary rather than an American one! 🙂

    Endeavour, Centre, Realised!!!!!!

  25. MJPC

    Guy, another interesting report. I believe the GFC was a wake up call for the ordinary US citizen as to how corrupt capitalism had made America. The first bailout vote in the US Senate was overturned as a result of voters lobbying their congressperson to vote against an enforced bailouts for the big banks, this was totally unexpected and democracy at work.
    I believe the same has reoccured, the vote is really the only option for Joe average citizen to be heard (corporations will be heard at all times, particularly by the conservative side of politics). This is a revolution which either side of politics would ignore at their peril, but particularly the Republicans.

  26. Niall Clugston

    Sorry, but it WAS 50-48%.

  27. Stephen Beasley

    An interesting take on the election, buy why the need to use an underscore to represent a letter in words, “sex”, “rape” and “porn”? Has Oz become so politically correct in my absence that we need mandate the manufacturers of typewriters, computer keyboards and mobiles omit the vowel keys? Have these words now become so powerful in our collective conscience that merely utilizing them might destroy civilisation as we know it? If so, that is truly depressing, here in the first decades of the 21st century. It would be expected in the Middle Ages, but surely society-at-large has matured since those dark days. Education is now enjoyed by most, rather than by a mere few.


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